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"When Surry Was Invaded," ca. March 1865


"When Surry Was Invaded," ca. March 1865


This article from 1918 relates many accounts of firsthand experiences during General George Stoneman's Raid. While this was compiled 53 years after the fact, it contains many valuable examples of how the raiders interacted with the people of Surry County. It tells how some citizens hid themselves and their belongings in fear of the raiding party, while others openly welcomed the raiders in an attempt to be spared from requisitions. This set of stories was picked to relate an idea during the First World War, specifically to contrast with the public information available about the war in Europe at the time in an effort to raise public opinion against the "murderous and barbarous Huns." With this in mind, the article can be used along with other sources to compile a more complete history of Stoneman’s Raid through Surry County.

Citizens specifically described:
- Winston Fulton (Wealthy area resident)
- Jake Brower (Owner of Hamburg Cotton Mills)
- Unnamed (Resident of Mr. Brower)
- Enoch Creed ( Wealthy Farmer)
- Emma Greenwood (Area resident)
- W. J. Hanks (Fancy Gap resident)


The Mount Airy News


"When Surry Was Invaded," Mount Airy News, March 21, 1918, In Journal of the Surry County Geneological Association, Dobson, 2006.




Jacob Simpson




Surry County, North Carolina

Original Format

Newspaper Article



The Mount Airy News, Mar. 21, 1918

There are perhaps comparatively few of the present generation in Surry County who know that this section was at one time in the hands of an alien enemy. In view of the remote possibility of another invasion, we give our readers the story of the one that took place back in the sixties. During the Civil War, no one in this county thought that the war would come within the confines of our own immediate section or that it would become the scene of contending armies or hostile hordes.

But one Sunday afternoon in 1865 while all the able bodied men were in the army and only they and children with the aged and infirm were left, a band of cavalary, estimated at from two to ten thousand, led by the federal Gen. Geo. M. Stoneman. rode into Mount Airy and camped for the night.

The armies of the North were trying to cut off the supplies of the Southern troops, and in order to do this, the railroads of the South had to destroy. General Sherman had marched through Georgia and had succeeded in making it impossible for supplies to reach the Southern armies by way of Greensboro, and the only road left was the one by way of Chattanooga, Knoxville and Bristol, reaching on up through Southwest Virginia Where the Norfolk 85 Western now runs. General Stoneman left Jonesboro, Tenn. with his men, and made his way through the Great Smokies to Boone, thence by Elkin, Dobson, Mount Airy and on across by Hillsville into Wythville, Where he proceeded to burn the supply houses and tear up the railway tracks going East.

Many people about here remember well about the troops passing through this country. They had few supply wagons and lived off the country. They were our enemies, sent here to fight if necessary and to treat us as their foes. They took much meat, corn and other provisions which they needed, and in some instances more than they needed and wasted a good deal. They took many horses, but it was generally in the nature of a swap. They took a fat horse and left a lean one. Sometimes the one they left was as good as the one they took except that it was poor.

Some people heard of their coming and hid what they had. Winston Fulton, a wealthy citizen of the county, loaded up his provisions and sent Jim, who was then a fifteen year old boy, with the provisions and the stock to hide it from the Yankees. Jim did such a good job of it, staying at one place a little and then moving on, that when the soldiers had departed, it took a week to find Jim and the provisions.

Jake Brower, father of Tom Brower and ex-Congressman John Brower was perhaps the wealthiest man in the county. He owned the old Hamburg Cotton Mills and had plenty of everything. He staid at home and let the army know that he was at their mercy. They took many things to eat but put a guard about his property and did not allow it be harmed. It is said that he had an old turkey gobbler which roosted on the gate post. He was proud and wilful. No army could scare him from home, and when night came on, while sentries tramped, sabers clicked and horses neighed, he defiantly took his place on the gate post. That gobbler became part of the feast the next morning.

There was a man living with Mr. Brewer at the time who only had one milk cow. The soldiers got her and were about to slay her for beef when an officer took in the situation and ordered the cow turned loose at once.

Enoch Creed, a well-to-do farmer on the Dobson Road was famous at that time for the fine quality of brandy which he made. The troops found several barrels of fine brandy in a cellar which was made in solid rock. Some of them filled their canteens, and realizing that if they all got into it the whole army would get drunk, they burst the barrels. The brandy would not soak in a solid rock and it is said that it was knee-deep in the cellar for several days.

There are some old apple trees standing near the wooden school building on Rockford Street which were set out the day before Stoneman’s men reached the city, by Bob Allred and his father. Although the soldiers camped all over the ground, not a tree was harmed.

Emma Greenwood, daughter of James Greenwood and mother of the editor of The News, was at that time a young woman of twenty. Several soldiers went to her father’s house and asked for food. A meal was prepared for them. She had gone at the time to carry provisions to the ones who were hiding their horses in the woods, and on her return, met these soldiers. Although she was riding a fine horse, it was not molested, and she was treated with all the courtesy that could be expected of well bred men.

W. J. Hanks, a well known Mount Airy man, was at the time a fifteen year old boy and was living with his father at Fancy Gap. Mr. Hanks says that at Mitchell’s Mill, about a mile this side of the Gap, someone fired on the soldiers, wounding one man and a horse. So far as is known this is the only casualty on the journey through Surry. Over near Hillsville, however, Alexander Chafin while drinking tried to attack them and was instantly shot and left for dead. He later recovered.

After destroying much railroad in toward Lynchburg, Gen. Stoneman took his men back down through this state and was said to have been around Salisbury when Lincoln was killed. Jefferson Davis was at Charlotte at the time, and Stoneman got on his trail, followed him into Georgia Where the former President of the Confederacy was captured, though not by General Stoneman.

What we want to impress upon our readers is that while we were in the hands and at the mercy of an alien army, an army whose comrades were being shot to pieces by our fathers and brothers, they lived on our substance, but made no attempt to terrorize us. There was not a home desecrated or burned; not a woman was violated; the fanes of our faith were left untouched, and the country was in no way devastated. Compare this with the Belgium and France by the murderous and barbarous Huns. They burned homes, desecrated altars, outraged women, crucified children, poisoned wells, and wantonly laid waste the fairest parts of the earth. We fight them today, and should their demonaical hordes, “crazed by avarice, lust and rum,” ever get into this country, we will by no means fare as did the past generation in the hands of the Yankees.


Mount Airy News. "When Surry Was Invaded." March 21, 1918. In Journal of the Surry County Geneological Association. Dobson, 2006.


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The Mount Airy News, "When Surry Was Invaded," ca. March 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed April 14, 2024,